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Here’s Yer Intangible Effect – Right In the Kisser, Alice!

2009 November 18
by Brad Humphreys

Assessing the intangible impact of sports has become an important area of research in the past few years. Most research tries to document, or value intangible positive benefits like “world class city” status or the sense of community created by sports teams. A new NBER working paper by economists David Card and Gordon Dahl takes a different approach and finds an intriguing result. Here’s the abstract:

Family violence is a pervasive and costly problem, yet there is no consensus on how to interpret the phenomenon of violence by one family member against another. Some analysts assume that violence has an instrumental role in intra-family incentives. Others argue that violent episodes represent a loss of control that the offender immediately regrets. In this paper we specify and test a behavioral model of the latter form. Our key hypothesis is that negative emotional cues – benchmarked relative to a rationally expected reference point – make a breakdown of control more likely. We test this hypothesis using data on police reports of family violence on Sundays during the professional football season. Controlling for location and time fixed effects, weather factors, the pre-game point spread, and the size of the local viewing audience, we find that upset losses by the home team (losses in games that the home team was predicted to win by more than 3 points) lead to an 8 percent increase in police reports of at-home male-on-female intimate partner violence. There is no corresponding effect on female-on-male violence. Consistent with the behavioral prediction that losses matter more than gains, upset victories by the home team have (at most) a small dampening effect on family violence. We also find that unexpected losses in highly salient or frustrating games have a 50% to 100% larger impact on rates of family violence. The evidence that payoff-irrelevant events affect the rate of family violence leads us to conclude that at least some fraction of family violence is better characterized as a breakdown of control than as rationally directed instrumental violence.

The typical negative external costs associated with professional sports include traffic, trash, and nuisance crimes like public intoxication. This result is similar to the one in a paper by Rees and Schnepel that appeared in the Journal of Sports Economics issue from the NAASE sessions at the WEAI conference.

I hope someone tells the Governator of California about this before they try to attract a new NFL team to LA.

Hat tip to Tyler at Marginal Revolution.

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